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Hilik Bar, Deputy Speaker of the Knesset,
Claudia Roth, Vice-President of the German Bundestag,
Fellow Members of the Bundestag,
Ladies and gentlemen,
I am delighted to be able to join you today in celebrating the 70th anniversary of the declaration of independence of the State of Israel.
On 14 May 1948, David Ben-Gurion, who later became the first Prime Minister of Israel, read out the declaration in Tel Aviv Museum. Seventy years later, the German-Israeli Association has invited people to a festival at Station Berlin at Gleisdreieck to mark this occasion. The fact that we are able to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the foundation of the State of Israel together is a reason to be very happy.
Very close to today’s venue, a former train station, you will find the remains of Anhalter Station. Such places actually stand for mobility and progress, but they remind us of the terrible role that stations played in German-Jewish relations as sites of deportation. Germany and Israel will be forever connected by the terrible crime against humanity of the Shoah.
We Germans must never forget how much inconceivable suffering and horror were caused by our country.
That is why I feel it is a gift that Israel and Germany now enjoy such close relations.
And for that reason, the fact that a Deputy Speaker of the Knesset is celebrating the anniversary of the foundation of the State of Israel here with us today in Germany makes this a very special occasion.
Ladies and gentlemen,
At the start of the month, I visited Israel, where I paid tribute to the victims in Yad Vashem. I firmly believe that we have a permanent responsibility to do our utmost to tackle anti-Semitism, racism and marginalisation.
In particular, we should focus on the next generation, that is, on young people in both countries who only know the history that binds Germany and Israel from what they have heard from their parents or grandparents. And in Germany young people often know very little about modern-day Israel. That is why I think we were right to spell out in our coalition agreement that international youth exchange must be a priority, especially as regards a culture of remembrance.
At 70, Israel is still a relatively young country, but it can look back on impressive development. And yet the images we see every day in the news remind us that Israel is situated in a very unstable region and that the path to peaceful coexistence seems to be getting longer and longer.
In Yad Vashem, I wrote the words “committed to peace”. And for me, that also definitely means commitment to peace in Israel. It is very important to me personally that Germany stand up for Israel’s existence and security because I believe in just peace, in which Israel’s existence and security are guaranteed and Israelis and Palestinians live side by side in two states.
Please take the message with you that in the current situation in particular, we stand by Israel, in awareness of its difficult relations with its neighbours.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Israel turns 70 in 2018. That is a reason to rejoice and celebrate.
And when it comes to celebrating, Tel Aviv and Berlin are among the best places in the world. However, the two cities do not merely have a very lively club scene in common. They are both vibrant, rapidly growing and diverse cities that offer a huge range of cultural activities.
The building where the Declaration of Independence was read out in 1948 also represents a link between Tel Aviv and Berlin. What is now the Independence Hall was given its modern form, which is reminiscent of Bauhaus, by Israeli architect Carl Rubin. In the early 1930s, Rubin worked for the renowned German Jewish architect, Erich Mendelsohn.
Along with many other Jewish architects who had been forced to flee from the Nazi regime, Rubin left his mark on urban development and influenced the typically understated design that we see around us to this day.
The White City in Tel Aviv is one of the most obvious examples of this. It is the largest collection of buildings in the Bauhaus style anywhere in the world.
I am sure that many of you are familiar with the White City, comprising almost 4000 Bauhaus buildings in today’s Tel Aviv.
Since 2003, they have been a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site, as they represent a unique phenomenon in modern architectural history.
As a representative of the German Government, I want to underline this in particular, as it is of great importance to us to help preserve these cultural objects with our Israeli partners. To this end, the German Government has provided some three million euros in funding since 2015 to be allocated over a period of ten years to set up a centre for architecture and cultural heritage preservation in Tel Aviv. Furthermore, the Federal Foreign Office has been granted special funding of two million euros by the German Bundestag to mark the centenary of the foundation of Bauhaus internationally in 2019.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank the German-Israeli Association for its role in fostering this collaboration.
It is a an inspiring example of cultural diplomacy in which many people play a part.
Ladies and gentlemen,
This weekend, the German-Israeli Association is showcasing Israel’s diversity in this venue so that all generations can experience it for themselves. This wonderful diversity includes Israeli music. We will be treated to a taste of this music during today’s event.
In general, Israel has a very diverse music scene, which enjoys great success far beyond the country’s borders, as we saw recently when Netta won the Eurovision Song Contest with her catchy song “Toy”.
I would like to thank Mr Königshaus and all those who got this wonderful and diverse festival off the ground.
We at the Federal Foreign Office are happy to support this event.
We want the numerous ties that already link us in the spheres of politics, art, culture, science and business to become ever closer.
We want to consolidate the friendship between Germany and Israel to an even greater extent and to show people in our two countries just how wide-ranging and diverse our ties are.
These ties also include all those between the
many people in civil society who breathe life into the close relations between Germany and Israel. Many of them are here with us today and I would like to thank them for their hard work and great dedication.
I hope this festival will be a great success for us all!
Thank you very much!